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Guyana says T&T discriminating against its citizens

Saturday, September 15, 2012    

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — The Government of Trinidad and Tobago may need to take some quick action to resolve a recurring human problem that, unless appropriately handled, could well sour the normally good relations that exist between that country and fellow Caribbean Community (Caricom) partner, Guyana.

Guyana’s Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett said there has been “recurring, hurtful discriminatory treatment” against Guyanese visitors, including intransit passengers, at Trinidad’s Piarco International Airport.

The long-serving Guyanese foreign minister chose to go public with the matter during a television interview on the State-owned NCN, when dealing with a range of nationals issues on the programme The Factor.

Commenting on negative experiences and perceptions faced by Guyanese travellers within Caricom, the foreign minister singled out T&T as perhaps “the current worsecase scenario” of harassment and discrimination against her fellow citizens, and stressed that it was high time for this long-standing problem to be resolved.

“…This problem has been officially ignored for far too long, despite our (Guyana) repeated efforts at the highest and other levels to stop this practice,” said Rodrigues-Birkett.

“I actually witness with my own eyes the embarrassment, the inconvenience and ugly treatment meted out to Guyanese nationals as they are ‘herded’ at the Piarco Airport for no known reason, while other Caricom nationals and other travellers are allowed to continue with their flight arrangements, bound for home or other destinations,” she said.

Rodrigues-Birkett added that he was “at a loss” to understand why actions to curb and eliminate the discriminatory treatment has not been undertaken by the Government of Trinidad, in cooperation with the relevant airline authorities, including Caribbean Airlines (CAL), operating out of Piarco International.

The obviously angry foreign minister said “CAL has its single biggest flying business among Caricom countries with Guyana and, therefore, it and the Ministry of Civil Aviation in T&T have a moral obligation to help bring an end to this ugly and disgusting situation affecting Guyanese travellers at the Piarco airport”.

T&T’s Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran, when asked by the Jamaica Observer to comment on the concerns raised by his Guyanese counterpart, said: “I am very concerned to learn about what the Guyana foreign minister has said, and I intend to make an early assessment of the relevant problems to which she has alluded.”

Dookeran said Trinidad and Tobago was “naturally interested in fostering good relations” with Guyana and, therefore, would seek to resolve the problem.

In the meantime, Rodrigues-Birkett said she was please with the improved treatment of Guyanese travellers by immigration officers in Barbados, as Guyana once had serious concerns.

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